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Monday, February 27, 2012

Dodgers injury guru Stan Conte wants to end the DL - ESPN The Magazine - ESPN

How can teams keep more players healthy? Two words…bubble wrap.

AT 5’O CLOCK IN THE MORNING on Jan. 19, Stan Conte woke to an email from Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, his familiar alarm clock of the past six years. Before Conte had a chance to breathe, Colletti hit him with the name of a free agent and a question that Conte, as the club’s senior director of medical services, has come to dread like no other:

“Yes or no?”

GMs, Conte says, always want him to provide definitive answers in absolute terms to million-dollar questions like: Are this catcher’s knees healthy enough to last two years? Or: If I give this pitcher a huge contract, will his arm fall off after six starts?

And more to the point: Should I sign him?

Before joining the Dodgers in 2006, Conte fielded many similar predawn queries from GM Brian Sabean during Conte’s seven seasons as the Giants’ head athletic trainer. In Conte’s mind, answering these questions is equivalent to asking a manager to guarantee his centerfielder will hit 35 home runs next season. Short of sorcery, there’s just no way to know. Yet that hasn’t stopped Conte from attempting to build a crystal ball anyway. “In a post-Moneyball world,” he says, “injury risk assessment is the final frontier.”

Jim Furtado Posted: February 27, 2012 at 05:56 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers, injury, sabermetrics

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   1. Dale Sams Posted: February 27, 2012 at 06:20 PM (#4069876)
Does this mean I can blame Red Sox medical staff for the signings of Crawford, Dice-K and Lackey? Yes!
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 27, 2012 at 06:43 PM (#4069892)
Following European soccer news makes me realize the value of a DL. If a soccer team has a player with, say, malaria, nobody knows whether he's gotten over it and is fit to play, or is going to be out for 2 weeks, or is going to be out for 18 months, or is going to be able to play every other game, or what. It's all rumors. Someone who in baseball would be described as "injury-prone" often ends up being viewed as simply a bust, because there's no clear reason why he isn't playing. Look at Darren Fletcher. Fans were told for six months that he had "a virus", all the while nebulous reports were coming out that he had lost 25 pounds, had not been seen anywhere near the rest of the team for months, et cetera. He came back in September and people thought he was fine, then he was taken out again as the non-virus truth was revealed - that he had "a bowel condition". Wait, that is also extremely vague. Then it was specified officially that he had ulcerative colitis, in response to widespread accurate and inaccurate speculation.

Some people say his career is over, some say he's decided to be a coach, some say he'll be back at the beginning of next season. And the only reason we know the truth is that he's one of the major players at Manchester United. Imagine the average injured player, sitting on the bench as fans speculate over whether he's just had knee surgery, or he's lazy, or the coach decided he doesn't fit into the system, or what.

Edit: This article isn't about getting rid of the DL, it's about trying to predict injuries. Just making it clear that I know that.
   3. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: February 27, 2012 at 06:57 PM (#4069905)
If baseball somehow did get rid of the DL, that would be a massive, massive advantage to high-payroll teams, I would think. If you always have the resources to get a replacement-level or better on relatively short notice in case of an injury, you can afford to gamble on an oft-injured player, confident that you can fill his roster spot if you need to.
   4. Tricky Dick Posted: February 27, 2012 at 08:12 PM (#4069976)
No. 3, by "ending" the DL, Conte is looking toward a dream goal whereby teams can predict injury prone players well enough that they don't need a DL because they will construct rosters out of players who don't get injured.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: February 28, 2012 at 12:19 AM (#4070087)
#4 ... yes but (a) Conte seems well aware that is impossible as injury RISK assessment is the goal and (b) the headline probably wasn't written by Conte. :-)

I don't know if it's the "final frontier" but it's certainly a big missing piece of information (at least for us out here).
   6. Cblau Posted: February 28, 2012 at 11:07 PM (#4070636)
#3- How would a high-payroll team be able to fill the injured player's roster spot, if the injured player is still filling it due to the lack of a disabled list?

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